:: KAARI - Korean-American Association of Rhode Island ::

Douglas Gamage is a RI Chapter 2 Korean War Veteran and he shared precious pictures taken from his service in Korea in the Spring of 1953.

Please go to the following link to see additional pictures.


A Non War Story

Douglas C Gamage

In the spring of 1953, the Korean war was winding down. There were still sporadic battles along the 38th parallel and some were violent. Peace talks had been going on at Panmunjom for months and everyday rumors spread that the fighting would be over tomorrow. 

I was a squad leader, a corporal in Item company, 17th regiment, 7th Infantry division and we were occupying a hill called Arsenal. It was just in front of Pork Chop and a few hundred yards to the right of Old Baldy. It was strategic because it was in the first line of defense of the MLR and we often had incoming harassing fire from nearby enemy positions. We ran frequent patrols which rarely engaged the enemy probably because they ignored us, thinking the war would be over soon and nobody wanted to be the last casualty. 

One morning I was walking through the trench when my company commander, a lieutenant, called me over to the command bunker. As I approached him I saw three Chinese soldiers sitting on the ground with their hands bound behind their backs. The lieutenant told me I was to stand guard over them and they had been captured during a skirmish the night before. An armored personnel carrier was on the way with four new fresh troops, ammunition, and C-rations. It would go back with the three prisoners and several wounded. As I sat down on an ammo box to wait for the APC, I looked at them sitting about six feet apart. The one on the right had an arrogant sneer on his face that I would have liked to wipe off with the back of my hand. The one on the left was the oldest. I figured he might be an officer. He just stoically stared at the ground. But the one in the middle was a young kid, perhaps still in his teens and he was shivering despite the warm rising sun. 

I knew that the Chinese indoctrinated their troops with lies about Americans. He probably had been told that if he was captured he would be tortured and then killed. You could see the fear in his eyes as the arrogant one said something to him in Chinese. I wish I had known how to say "shut up" in Chinese but I could only point my rifle at him and put my hand up to my mouth. I wanted to somehow show the young Chinese soldiers that we were not the monsters that his superiors made us out to be. 

The APC arrived and six new replacements emerged along with several boxes of ammo and c-rations. The dead and wounded were loaded for the trip back down and I herded my three captives aboard. The ride down was eventful since the roof was already covered by enemy fire and we could hear the explosions of mortar and artillery, although none scored a direct hit. Small arms fire did hit us but without effect, the pinging of the rounds on the armored plate sounding like someone hammering on the vehicle. 

We arrived at a command post which was protected from enemy fire behind the hill. There were several squad tents, a latrine, and a triage tent with a large red cross on the roof surrounded by sandbags and a helicopter landing pad. Many years later when I watched the TV show "M.A.S.H" I was reminded of that place.  

Waiting for the MP's to come and take over the prisoners, I couldn't help feeling sorry for the young Chinese soldier, so I untied his hands (he probably thought I was preparing to execute him) lit a cigarette and offered it to him. I also offered him a drink from my canteen. The other prisoner barked at him in Chinese, and I took it to mean and he was telling the younger soldier not to accept what I offered. So I walked over to him, pressed my rifle to his forehead and said, "Shut up." He got the message and glowered at me and I knew he would kill me if he could. 

The young soldier drank the water gratefully and accepted the cigarette. He bowed his head to me several times in thanks. Then the MPs arrived and took them into custody. The young soldier looked at me with fear in his eyes and I tried to convey that he would be all right. Then they took him away. 

Years later I returned to Korea on a revisit. I looked at the faces of old men wondering if one of them could be that young soldier somehow making his way to South Korea after the war. I hope he did. 

Douglas C Gamage

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